Love takes time. A minimum would be six months of dating to even accurately say “I love you.” What about love at first sight and all the other miracle attractions of life, cinema and fiction? They are the exceptions, often rare if successful, to the Rule — Love takes Six Months. Why? You cannot love someone you do not know and it takes time to get to know someone. Dating is a euphoric state in which each party wants the other to like them. So everybody is on good behavior, trying to empress, hoping weaknesses don’t show through to soon, taking extra care with appearance and niceties. Over time you see a person at their best and worst. Specifically pay attention to relationships with family members, attitudes about ex’s and others of your gender. Then just before you utter the “L” word ask these nine questions about yourself and the other person:
1. What is the dating history?
One pattern to look at is too much/too little. Beware of the person who has been ” in love” a lot. Such a person may be in love with the idea of being in love and continues to move one warm body in after another. Or there is such a fear of loneliness someone has to be in their life. Or there is strong emotional neediness to be loved or to love that a vacuum is abhorred. People who have never dated or dated very little likely know very little about the skills necessary to sustain an ongoing intimate relationship. Or the person is jumping on the first person who shows interest in them to escape a bad home, relationship or life circumstance i.e. broke, unemployed, debt, etc.
2. What is the roommate history?
Most of the time roommates voluntarily select each other. Get this history early in the dating process, because once people think you are “serious” you may not hear the truth. Beware of a person who has had four different roommates in two years. Is the person irresponsible by not paying a share of the bills on time? Or rude or unthoughtful by playing music loud when a roomie has a big deadline or a project. Talk to short term roommates about issues of disrespect, dishonesty, or selfish, narcissistic behavior.
3. Are there any family issues?
Is there a family history of abuse — verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual? These abuses can leave feelings and reactions that fast forward into here and now relationships. People can overcome these abuses, but it often requires therapy, hard personal work, and/or patient supportive healthy relationships. Carefully consider a family history of addictions, mental illness, or divorce. This is not an exhaustive list but certainly include those issues most often discussed as problematic. These issues, if present, do not have to be a deal breaker for a relationship but should be carefully considered as to there impact on a marriage, children, in-laws and your future.
4. What is the history of friendships?
Friendships tell volumes about a person’s ability to get along in the broadest universe of relationships. Harry Stack Sullivan, eminent American psychiatrist, believed even the most horrible hurts in childhood could be overcome with a good friend in a process he called “chumship.” Have friendships lasted since childhood or adolescence? Are most of these people emotionally healthy, leading productive lives, and have stable relationships. A yellow caution light ought to go off in your head if someone you are dating only has crazy, messed up friends. Or if the person tends to have a new best friend and all past friends are trivialized or hated. At the least it may mean extensive use of cutoff or alienation if the person is hurt, at the worst it could mean use of splitting which indicates a character disorder.
The first four questions ask about history. The answers are usually in the form of observable, countable facts. Some say love is blind. Well it sure can be dumb if we don’t ask important sometimes hard questions.
5. Are each of you happy persons?
One of the myths in our culture is I can marry happiness. If I find Mr./Ms. Right I’ll be happy! Wrong! Each person carries happiness within the self. Imagine its a bucket within your personality. Whatever has happened to you for good creates a reservoir of happiness. Whatever has happened to you for bad creates holes in your bucket. Life is the challenge of patching the holes and keeping the bucket filled within. No amount of someone pouring goodies and love form the outside will keep you happy long if the holes remain unpatched.